It has been almost 51 years since the Apollo 11 spacecraft landed on the Moon, carrying astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins.
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong made history by becoming one of the two brave men to take the first steps on the moon
It all started when in 1961, President John F Kennedy challenged NASA to put two humans on the Moon. The mission was to take the first steps on the Moon and to return the astronauts safely.
On the morning of July 16, Apollo 11, the astronauts sat inside the Saturn V at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. The three-stage 363-foot spacecraft used its 7.5 million pounds of pressure to propel them into space. The rocket was launched from Cape Kennedy at 13:32:00 UT.
After one and a half orbits, the Apollo 11 was ready for what’s known as “Translunar Injection,” which is just a fancy way of saying “it’s time to head for the Moon.”
The spacecraft was inserted into Lunar-orbit at 75:50 ground elapsed time. The rocket was arranged in an elliptical orbit inclined 1.25 degrees to the lunar equatorial plane. At almost 80:12 ground elapsed time, the service module propulsion system was reignited, and the orbit was made circular above the surface of the moon. Each orbit took about two hours.
The photographs that were taken during that time provided essential information for the study of lunar geology.
The lunar module containing astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin was undocked from the command-service module at 100:14 ground elapsed time (GET). At 101:36 GET, the lunar module descent engine was ignited for almost 30 seconds.
Then the moment of truth finally arrived as the descent to the lunar surface began.
When the Eagle was about to land in the Sea of Tranquility, Armstong had to pilot the ship past an area filled with rocks manually. As the final seconds approached, the Eagle’s computer started sounding alarms.
Later the astronauts found that the alarms only rang because the computer was overloaded.
When the lunar module landed, only 30 seconds of fuel remained. Imagine what would have happened if the module landing had been delayed for even half a minute.
The Eagle successfully landed on the Moon 102 hours, 45 mins and 40 seconds after launch.
After landing, Armstrong reached out to Houston’s control center. He said, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed” Houston erupts into a celebration.
After the landing, Armstrong and Aldrin prepared the Lunar Module for liftoff as an emergency measure. The astronauts were supposed to have a scheduled sleep and meal period, but by their requests, it was postponed.
Shortly after landing on the Moon, Armstrong and Aldrin prepared the LM for liftoff as a contingency measure.
Following the meal, a scheduled sleep period was postponed at the astronauts' request, and the astronauts began arrangements for the descent to the lunar surface.
Neil Armstrong climbed down from the spacecraft first. He released the Modularized Equipment Stowage Assembly (MESA) on the surface and thus recorded humankind’s first steps on the moon at 109:25:19 Ground Elapsed Time.
They collected samples of surface material and stored it onboard, in case there was an emergency, and the astronauts had to leave immediately.
Moments after Astronaut Armstong, Astronaut Aldrin descended onto the moon, while Astronaut Collins remained in the shuttle and took pictures of the view.
The astronauts left behind an American flag, a patch that honored the Apollo 1 crew that died, and a plaque that said “Here men from planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We come in peace for all mankind.”
Next, Armstrong and Aldrin blasted off and docked with Collins in Columbia. The astronauts had safely landed on the moon, but their work was far from over. You see, getting to the Moon was only part of the journey; the astronauts carried out a series of projects that included the deployment of a Solar Wind Composition experiment, collection of extra lunar material, panoramic pictures of the landing area, photographs of the moon, and more. They deployed the Laser-Ranging Retroreflector (LRRR) and a Passive Seismic Experiment Package (PSEP)
Roughly two and a half hours after landing the astronauts re-entered the Lunar Module where they would sleep.
At 124:22 Ground Elapsed Time, 21 hours and 36 minutes after the landing the journey back to the Earth began. The spacecraft re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere at a velocity of 36,194 feet per second and landed into the Pacific Ocean.
The astronauts all landed safely and the mission was successful.
The dream of President Kennedy and millions of Americans had come true!